Feeds

Mafia boss undone by clumsy crypto

Little Caesar

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Clues left in the clumsily encrypted notes of a Mafia don have helped Italian investigators to track his associates and ultimately contributed to his capture after years on the run.

The recently busted Bernardo Provenzano, reputed to be the "boss of bosses" of the Sicilian Mafia, used a modified form of the Caesar cipher to obscure "sensitive information" in notes left to either his family or underlings.

According to a biography (written by Italian journalists Salvo Palazzolo and Ernesto Oliva) on bernardoprovenzano.net, the content of these notes varied from meal requests to his family to orders to his lieutenants where numbers were used to disguise people's names.

Provenzano, 73, was arrested last week in a farm close to his home town of Corleone on the Italian island of Sicily after almost 40 years on the run. He's accused of numerous homicides including the 1992 murder of two judges, a crime that earned him a life sentence in absentia. Provenzano who earned the nickname Binnu u tratturi (Binnu the tractor) because of his rep for mowing down enemies, latterly took to writing instructions incorporating basic encryption on small scraps of paper, known locally as pizzini.

The classic Caesar cipher moves every letter in the alphabet three charecters later (so A becomes D and B becomes E, etc.). The so-called Binnu code assigns a number in order to each letter in the Italian alphabet and adds three to that number in the ciphertext so that "A" is 4, "B" is 5 and so on.

The code would have been more secure if the numerical shift applied to the ciphertext was varied from time to time. As it was, the contents of messages was readily deciphered. "Looks like kindergarten cryptography to me. It will keep your kid sister out, but it won't keep the police out. But what do you expect from someone who is computer illiterate?" security guru Bruce Schneier told Discovery News.

Provenzano left school aged only eight, a factor which might explain the simplistic nature of the way sensitive messages, normally typed out on old typewriters, were encoded. The decipherment of the pizzini sent and received by Provenzano allowed police to identify his associates and ultimately contributed to investigative efforts that led to Provenzano's arrest, Discovery News reports. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Drunkards warned: If you can't walk in a straight line, don't shop online, you fool!
Put it away boys. Cover them up ladies. Your credit cards, we mean
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Cops baffled by riddle of CHICKEN who crossed ROAD
'Officers were unable to determine Chicken's intent'
Murder accused DIDN'T ask Siri 'how to hide my roommate'
US court hears of cached browser image - not actual request
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Chomp that sausage: Brits just LOVE scoffing a Full Monty
Sales of traditional brekkie foods soar as hungry folk get their mitts greasy
Nuts to your poncey hipster coffees, I want a TESLA ELECTRO-CAFE
Examining the frothy disconnect in indie cafe culture
Ex-Apple man Sam Sung - for it is he - sticks namebadge on eBay
Stump up via tat bazaar, do a good thing for ill kids
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.